It says something about the level of noise in this year's gubernatorial race when the candidate with the lowest profile has perhaps the most intriguing back-story.
Paul Fiorino didn't advertise for his running mate on Craigslist, he doesn't have Dog the Bounty Hunter campaigning on his behalf, and he hasn't been accused of pilfering money from a fragile octogenarian.
But he sure can dance.
In 2006 Fiorino decided to run for governor when he learned that the state arts council might be abolished. He became the first ever unaffiliated candidate to make it onto the Colorado gubernatorial ballot, and he did so while training for the lead role in the Colorado Ballet's rendition of The Nutcracker.
Fiorino describes himself as a dance instructor, producer, director and performing-arts advocate. While the move from performance artist to state executive may seem counterintuitive, Fiorino believes that his background in the arts makes him uniquely qualified to govern.
"I've worked with some of the best arts organizations in the world, from the New York City Ballet to the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble," he says. "I've seen how organizations develop, how to get them into a mode of success, and the creative ways in which organizations have to fight to survive or find a new way to prosper. That's the position that Colorado is in right now."
In a year when many candidates have framed state issues as a part of the national debate, Fiorino wants to bring the focus back to Colorado, where he's lived for more than fifty years.
"Colorado is having an identity crisis," he says. "Are we a gas and oil state? Are we an aerospace state? We're all of those but we can't forget about the arts, our heritage or promoting tourism. These are the things that Coloradans have historically taken pride in."
Fiorino wants to work between party lines to come up with the kind of creative solutions that other candidates might be too narrow to develop. "I believe there are a lot of opportunities for preventative and alternative medicines in Colorado," he says. "With the facilities available here we have an opportunity for medical tourism, to bring people from all over the world to get their healthcare here."
But when it comes to discussing the challenges an independent candidate faces, Fiorino sings a familiar tune. "The biggest challenge is the bold-faced discrimination that independent candidates encounter. We're completely ignored, not mentioned by name, not invited to the debates and not even notified that a debate has been scheduled."
He's equally cynical when it comes to the Hick-Maes-Tancredo triumvirate and is quick with a performing arts metaphor to describe the election. "It's a sideshow. Hopefully when the dust settles Colorado will be able to move forward." But Fiorino says that he's more worried about ballot amendments 60 and 61, and proposition 101, which he says would be devastating to Colorado.
In the 2006 election Fiorino finished ahead of the American Constitution Party candidate, logging nearly 11,000 votes and finishing fourth in a field of six. "I'd love to beat them again," he says. It would be a much bigger story this time around if he did.
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